Insulin Testing for Diabetes in Cats

by Elle Di Jensen, Demand Media
    Your vet will test your cat's insulin levels if she suspects diabetes.

    Your vet will test your cat's insulin levels if she suspects diabetes.

    When your normally plump kitty suddenly loses half her body weight, that's a pretty big red flag and should be enough to prompt an immediate visit to the vet. If she's got other symptoms, like excessive thirst and urination, the doctor will probably want to test your cat's insulin levels.

    The Test

    When your cat's weight suddenly plummets, the first thing your vet will do is a complete blood workup. Vets usually have an idea what they'll find, and your vet will be looking for specific things, like high glucose levels. If blood-sugar levels are high, the next thing to test are insulin levels.

    Diagnosing Diabetes

    If your cat's blood work comes back revealing high blood sugar and low insulin, there's no other diagnosis but diabetes. This disease is a result of your cat's body not producing enough insulin to regulate blood sugar. The good news is that diabetes is very treatable with once- or twice-daily insulin injections. Even if you don't catch the disease early on, there's still a positive outlook for your cat, and she'll be back to her old, frisky self right away once you start treatment.

    Helping Your Cat Live with Diabetes

    How much insulin and how often you have to administer it will depend on your cat's system. Initially the vet will recommend a low dosage and have you return to the clinic every few days to monitor your cat's blood-sugar levels to see how it is affected by the amount of insulin you're giving her. Some cats diabetes can be managed with as little as one unit of insulin once a day, while others may require four or more units every 12 hours. The injections are easy to administer, even if you're squeamish. The needles are small and you only need to slide the needle under the skin to inject the insulin. Your cat should become used to the routine and will feel much better when her blood sugar is under control.
    Your vet will also recommend a food formulated for cats with high blood sugar and request that you feed your cat the same amount of food at the same time each day to help keep her blood sugar steady.

    Too Much Insulin

    You'll need to take your kitty in for routine blood-glucose testing to make sure her blood sugar remains under control. That does take time, though, and can get a little spendy at $50 or more a pop for office calls. Your vet can show you how to monitor your cat's glucose levels at home using a blood-glucose monitor available at any pharmacy. Just a small drop of blood taken from the pad of one of her paws is enough for the newer monitors to determine your cat's blood-sugar level. Stay in constant contact with your vet on the fluctuations of your cat's blood sugar and let him determine if an increase or decrease in insulin is necessary.
    If you give her too much insulin or if you give her even the normal dosage when her blood sugar is low, she could go into shock. If your cat goes into insulin shock her heart rate may slow and she might shake or have seizures. Her limbs will be cold, her gums will be pale and she may drool. Rubbing some corn syrup on her gums and under her tongue with your finger should help, but you should take her to the vet immediately so he can monitor her condition and help stabilize it, if necessary.

    About the Author

    Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.

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